In My Own Front Yard

This morning I woke late, but we went to the lake anyway. It is feeling a lot like summer. A chill in the air, but no arctic wind. In fact, no wind to speak of this morning. While Leonard sniffed around we watched the almost-swan paddling near the bridge. I meant to look up whether there was a way to distinguish male from female without becoming invasive. “It” is still alone, at any rate. There were a few mallards keeping their distance.

A squirrel stopped halfway up the tree trunk to stare at us. Perfectly silhouetted against the blue sky, so that the silly fur-forks standing up from the tips of his ears were visible. I still have no idea if the tussle we witnessed a few weeks back was a fight for territory or some kind of mating activity. Maybe there is a second squirrel tucked away in the tree with babies.

It almost makes me sad to be so ignorant of something so close. I think maybe this summer – when school lets out in two weeks – I could pack a lunch and settle under the trees there. Bring binoculars and spy a little. Why not?

It’s odd. I actually have plans to do something similar next month. We are flying and boating all the way up to an island above the arctic circle to stay in a cabin with friends, without running water. I hope to spend a few days on the beach waiting and watching for porpoises and otters. Scanning the sky for birds of prey and trying to identify them.

Why do I feel a need to go away from home to pay close attention? It’s almost as if it is “allowed” then. It’s not indulgent, or eccentric, or peculiar. It’s a vacation.

I’ve tried my bird.net app for the past two days. Sometimes it is difficult for the app to distinguish the birds at all – it is such a cacophony. Most of the time, it manages the blackbird. I was annoyed at first. One of the three birds I know by song. And the most ubiquitous here since it overwinters, unlike most of the sparrows. But then why am I valuing rare birds over these birds that hop alongside us every morning year-round. Their familiar orange beaks shining under the lamps in the winter. They’re not showy, they’re not even iridescently black like the magpies. But they sing. Around the clock, they sing.

Maybe there is a lesson to be learned from the common blackbirds.

once we saw an owl
swoop into view from darkness
black birds sing always

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  1. The word Summer does not yet visit my lips. Though me too, observing, no, appreciating the birds more than my usual. Crows abound, but it’s the gulls who shape themselves like the wind that seem of good grace. However changing scale, the small local garden birds who perch and sing, yes, they make easy melody. They do the world better than me, not needing a padded jacket in early cold day. And no, won’t mention the dark of night rabbits seeking invisibility. Nor the ferry boat I can see for about thirty seconds on each leg.

    Maybe if I write this, I’ll write something more.

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